DeSantis signs bill raising teacher pay, delay in school year discussed, other opening plans and more

Teacher pay raises: Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a bill that commits $500 million to boost teacher salaries in the state. The Legislature pared down DeSantis’ request for $600 million to improve starting teacher pay to at least $47,500. Eighty percent of the $500 million will go to districts to increase starting teacher pay to as close to $47,500 as they can. The other $100 million will be used to boost pay for veteran teachers who otherwise might not be making as much as a first-year teacher. Most educators welcomed the news, though many are disappointed that longtime teachers didn’t get what they’d hoped for. “If you’re a new teacher, it’s amazing,” said Jason Katz, president of the Palm Beach County teachers union. “This was an effort to entice people into the profession, but there was an utter disregard for veterans. What this law does is raise the minimum pay to that of a 10- or 11-year teacher.” DeSantis said the bill moved Florida from 26th among the states in starting teacher pay to fifth. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Politico Florida. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay Times. Orlando Sentinel. Sun Sentinel. Palm Beach Post. WPLG. WKMG. WSVN. WTVT. Florida Politics. Spectrum News 13. Miami-Dade County School District employees are voting this week on a tentative agreement that would set starting teacher salaries at $47,500, with increases ranging from ranging from 2 to 4.38 percent for other employees. Miami Herald.

Reopening schools: If the number of coronavirus cases continues to spike, Palm Beach County School Board members said they would consider postponing the scheduled Aug. 10 start of the school year. Board member Debra Robinson suggested starting school only after the number of cases begins to decline. Three other members agreed a delay of a few weeks should be considered if the pandemic doesn’t begin to abate. Palm Beach Post. WPTV. WPEC. Volusia County schools won’t open until after the Aug. 18 primary election, since some of those schools are used as polling places. Reopening was scheduled Aug. 17, but the earliest return date is now Aug. 19. Daytona Beach News-Journal. A Lee County school reopening task force is recommending that all pre-K through 6th-grade students return to classrooms, with 7th- to 12th-graders splitting their time between in-person and virtual classes. WINK. Orange County school officials are encouraging parents to consider remote learning in the Orange County Virtual School when the academic year begins. WFTV. Citrus County School Board members approved a deal to have the Florida Virtual School “franchise” Citrus Virtual School to provide a standard curriculum for those who would rather continue remote learning than go back into classrooms. Citrus County Chronicle. The Bay County School board has tentatively approved a proposal that would allow students to wear masks at schools if they choose to. Panama City News Herald. Wakulla County schools reopen Aug. 13 with masks for students recommended but not required. WTXL. Alachua County schools plan to open Aug. 10 as scheduled, but officials said things could change quickly. Gainesville Sun.

Reopening universities: New College students will be tested for the coronavirus before school begins in the fall, according to the school’s reopening plan that was approved this week by the Florida Board of Governors. Ten percent of the students will be tested each week, and contact tracing will be used to notify people who have been in contact with students who test positive. Students will wear masks and observe social distancing, and rotate between attending classes online or in-person. Bradenton Herald. Reopening plans for Florida International University call for students and faculty to wear face masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands frequently. Only about one-third of classes will be held in-person. Florida Atlantic University has many of the same rules, but will require international students or those who are traveling from domestic coronavirus hot spots to quarantine on campus for 14 days after arrival. WLRN. Florida Polytechnic University will begin the fall term Aug. 20, with most classes being held on campus while observing social distancing guidelines. Masks will be required. All classes will be held remotely between Thanksgiving and the winter break. Lakeland Ledger. University of South Florida officials say they have delayed the deadline for students to cancel their housing contracts and possibly get a refund on their deposits. Course schedules will be released by the third week in July, and students who are assigned online courses only can cancel without penalty until Aug. 1. Tampa Bay Times.

Help for disconnected: Most Marion County elementary schools are opening July 13 to help select students readjust and catch up on work they missed during remote learning. Students will be invited to attend the schools for three weeks. Then they’ll get a break and come back with other students when schools reopen Aug. 10. The district said the plan, called Liftoff 2020, will have an “academic and socialization focus, while also practicing for general opening in the fall.” Ocala Star-Banner.

More on the coronavirus: Hillsborough County School Board members warned that high school graduation ceremonies planned for the week of July 6 could still be canceled if the number of coronavirus cases in the county continue to rise. Tampa Bay Times. Plans to hold a prom for 2,000 graduating Hillsborough County high school seniors have been set back by the uptick in coronavirus cases. Two venues have now canceled on the organizer. Tampa Bay Times. School boards and other government agencies can continue to meet remotely through Aug. 1, Gov. DeSantis has ordered. The executive order was first signed March 20, then extended through June 30. News Service of Florida. The private Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg has become the first school in the Tampa Bay area to cancel its high school football season. Tampa Bay Times. Nine Osceola County schools are pickup sites for free breakfasts and lunches through July 16. Osceola County School District.

School referendum: Pinellas County voters will again be asked in November to renew a special property tax for the school district that helps improve teacher pay and arts programs. The tax was first approved in 2004. About 80 percent of the money the tax raises goes toward teacher pay, and 20 percent to arts programs. Tampa Bay Times.

Parkland parents appeal: Several parents of students killed in the 2018 Parkland school shootings are appealing a court ruling that a medical health provider cannot be held liable for the shooting. The parents allege that Henderson Behavioral Health Inc. was negligent in not stopping the accused shooter from being mainstreamed into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and for failing to warn about the danger he posed. The 4th District Court of Appeal disagreed, and the Florida Supreme Court is now being asked to take the case. News Service of Florida.

Ethics complaint dismissed: Ethics complaints against Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend and State Rep. Melony Bell, R-Fort Meade, have been dismissed by the Florida Commission on Ethics for a “for lack of legal sufficiency.” The complaint against Townsend cited the use of his blog to criticize the superintendent with inside information, advertise for re-election and solicit donations. Bell had been accused of acting unethically by calling for the removal of Townsend from office. Lakeland Ledger.

School elections: The four candidates for the District 7 seat on the Pinellas County School Board talk about the student achievement gap, police in schools, charter schools and more in a virtual candidate forum. St. Pete Catalyst.

Personnel news: Harry Russell, the principal at Sugarloaf School, has been named the human resource director for the Monroe County School District. He replaces the retiring Ramon Dawkins. Key West Citizen.

Guns at schools: A Lee County 6th-grader has been expelled from Harns Marsh Middle School for bringing a semi-automatic gun and loaded magazine to school in December. The 12-year-old took the weapon out of his backpack several times during the school day before he was taken into custody. The assistant principal was demoted for mishandling the situation. WFTX.

Opinions on schools: The recklessness, hypocrisy and sheer lack of leadership from the Hillsborough County School District’s decision to hold graduation ceremonies is mind-boggling. With the coronavirus spreading across Tampa Bay, and cases surging in Florida, there’s no idea more irresponsible than herding thousands of people to an indoor event. Tampa Bay Times. Three things to know about school reopening: It’s already started in some states, many parents may be hesitant to send their children back, and private schools, which are also an important part of the community, are suffering and need help. Jonathan Butcher, redefinED. Other states should follow Florida’s lead in obtaining federal charter funding waivers to reallocate aid to charter schools so they can get through the pandemic. Alex Medler, The 74. Gov. DeSantis’ signing of the bill to boost teacher pay is important because it may convince some younger people to consider teaching, and it sends a signal that finally Tallahassee recognizes the value of the state’s K-12 teachers. Joe Henderson, Florida Politics. Remote learning has revealed both the good and the bad in the Brevard County School District. Wyatt Hoover, Florida Today. As 9th-graders, my friends and I faced many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic: the transition from middle school to high school, new schools and teachers, and then a new way of learning. But we managed to pull through in the end. Yoo-Shin Koh, Gainesville Sun.

Student enrichment: Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is committing $3 million though his Vinik Family Foundation for a three-year research project at the University of Florida’s Lastinger Center for Learning at the University of Florida to train day-care staffs how to make their care more educational. Tampa Bay Times.

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